Three friends and a cab driver who survived a fallen tanker accident in Lagos on Sunday, September 19, 2021 recount the chilling experience in these interviews with TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Oghenetejiri Walter; I work as a marketing executive on the Island with an organisation that sells kitchen appliances.
You are one of the survivors of a fallen tanker accident at Ojuelegba in Lagos on Sunday, September 19. Can you narrate how it all happened?
On that day, we were all coming from school – Lagos State Polytechnic – and going to a food joint in Surulere. I was telling my friends that I hadn’t eaten ofada rice before and that I hoped my first time would be a nice experience. I was asking them, “What does it taste like?” I had been asking that question out of curiosity even before we got into the cab. So, when we were in the cab, my friend was showing me pictures of ofada rice and other dishes they sell at the restaurant. I rested on her while checking the things on her phone.
The articulated vehicle was behind us, so we never expected such a thing to happen. But all of a sudden, as if it was hand-picked from somewhere, we just saw the container falling on our cab. It came to us unexpectedly, perhaps if the truck was beside us, we would have told our driver to drive faster and move away quickly. But there was nothing we could do about it, not even our driver could save us, we were all helpless. But thank God that I was not sitting upright because if I was, perhaps, I would have been seriously injured.
When you saw the container coming down on your vehicle, did you make any attempt to jump out of the vehicle?
Running out of a moving vehicle could have been too risky for us, we couldn’t do anything. And it happened too suddenly. It was like the container came out of the blue. The only thing we did was just to shout Jesus. We kept shouting Jesus! Jesus! till the container fell on our vehicle.
I sat on the left side of the vehicle behind the driver. It was so scary that I couldn’t do anything. I saw the way the thing (container) was coming down, and all I could do was tilt backwards, as if wanting to dodge the container from falling on me; it was just a reflex action though. While I was doing that I kept shouting Jesus till the container fell on the car and we heard the sound of the fall and the crumbling of the vehicle. It sounded like a nylon being squeezed or egg shells being crumbled.
What happened after the container fell on you?
When the container fell on us, we were all trapped. We kept shouting help! help us! We were alive. So, we heard people saying, “They are alive. Hold on! Help is on the way.” My friend, Motunrayo, was saying, “T.J, is this how we are going to die?” I told her not to worry, to hold on that we would not die; that we would be rescued, seeing that people were already trying to get us help.
How were you able to breathe since you were trapped under the container?
Thankfully, we were able to breathe even while we were trapped. Although it was so dark under there, I was just touching my friends at first to know that they were alive. Nobody could recognise anybody. I was touching the drivers’ head, thinking it was my friend Austin’s head. It was when I was calling the name that the driver said he was the one. Then my friend responded. We could talk well at first. In fact, I could recall telling everyone not to move because the more we attempted to move, the more we would hurt our bones. I was resting on Motunrayo’s legs before the incident occurred, so she was trying to remove her leg. My neck was on her leg and as she was trying to remove her leg, I was choking.
Soon, it became difficult for us to breathe as air wasn’t really coming in. I remember telling others that we should open our mouths, so that air could come in. Later, we all started gasping for breath. We could not breathe. God did a wonder; that’s all I can say. It was God.
Did you at any point think that you were going to die?
By the time the container was eventually removed, I was already tired. I could no longer breathe well. Just before then, I had concluded that I had held on for long enough and was tired. My hands dropped like I was surrendering at that point, then in like two seconds, I came alive again. Even my friend Motunrayo was also going. At some point, she couldn’t even respond again while we called her name. So, when Austin was calling, I would hold her hand and shake her. But Austin kept calling our names at intervals to ensure that we were fine.
What kept you going in the middle of those moments?
It was God, because every time I felt like I was giving up, it looked like someone did a cardiopulmonary resuscitation on me and I came back to life. Also, the people that were around while we were stuck under the container were very helpful. They kept hitting the container as if trying to break the container while the emergency service of the government had yet arrived. It gave me hope that people were there and were trying to help us. I am grateful to God for that person that kept hitting the container.
Did you sustain any injury?
No. I didn’t even have a scratch, just a little bit of body pains. In fact, that has been the most amazing part of our testimony that despite all of that, none of us sustained any serious injury or fracture. The highest was just a minor cut on the hand. Before we were removed, I could no longer feel anything in the right part of my body. In fact, I was trying to close my palm but I couldn’t. I was scared that the right part of my body was gone but the moment the container was removed, I was relieved. I felt very good. Despite the fact that the car was crushed so badly, we are alive and more so, we came out without fractures and wounds.
How would you describe your survival?
This is more than a miracle. For each and every one of us that were trapped in that vehicle, our testimony is more than a miracle. Neither us nor the people that were there could actually explain or comprehend what exactly happened to us. It is more than a miracle because the word miracle is too common these days. It is more than a miracle and we are just grateful to God. God shielded us; in fact, I would say God was there with us in the vehicle because how does anyone explain this, that we were all intact despite the magnitude of the incident? When we came out, I was just crying because no one could believe that we were in that crushed car.
What effect does the whole experience have on you?
It was a very traumatising experience. I am yet to recover from the effect. At one point, I was crying when my friend was no longer talking. I was just crying and begging her to talk to me. I don’t pray that my enemy go through what we went through that night. No human deserves to go through any of that. We merely escaped by the grace of God because I wouldn’t even say that we are so faithful in our service to God.
How did your relatives find out about the incident?
My boss called me that Sunday evening while we were stuck under the container. I couldn’t pick. But I dialed back his number with my left hand and told him that I was involved in an accident and currently stuck under a fallen container at Ojuelegba. He was like, “How can you make a call while involved in an accident?” But I kept telling him that I wasn’t joking that I was currently involved in an accident. I was just shouting, ‘Start coming.’ He lives in Irawo just before Ikorodu. Immediately after the call, my phone fell from my hand, so I couldn’t bend down to pick the phone anymore even when the phone was vibrating just beside my legs. When I later got my phone, I saw like 30 missed calls. That means that after my call with him ended, he must have called my family members to inform them.
Do you still have flashes from the incident?
Yes. I have not totally got over the shock. Once I close my eyes, the images of the incident still play in my head. I would literally see the container falling on my head. I will open my eyes with fear all over my face. It’s the people around me that have been talking me out of it; telling me to calm down, “You’re home in your room.” It’s such a terrible experience. I have always heard about this trailer and container falling on people, but experiencing it is so different for me. I have never thought that I could be caught in such a web.
Were you given proper medical attention?
Yes. We were taken to the hospital. I was given some drips. They did an X-ray to check if I had any bone issue and after the X-ray showed that I was fine, the hospital also checked for internal injury but there was none; so, I was discharged alongside others.
Who paid the hospital bill?
My elder brother did. They are yet to find the owner of the truck.
We haven’t got over shock, still have traumatic flashes – Augustine, Motunrayo
What is your name and relationship with others involved in the accident?
My name is Augustine Egwu. The two ladies are my friends while the other man is the driver of the cab we ordered.
Can you remember what happened?
I can’t really remember a lot of things because I am still trying to get over the shock. What I remembered was that I heard a loud noise from behind, a container fell on the vehicle and we were trapped there for a while.
What was going on in your mind in the middle of that episode?
I can only give thanks to God that I was alive to witness all of what was happening.
When you heard that sound, what came to your mind?
When I heard the sound from behind, I thought it was a danfo (a commercial yellow bus) that hit us only to see a container falling on us from the left side of the car. At that moment, all I was shouting was Jesus till the container finally fell on us.
What happened thereafter?
The people there tried their best to bring us out but they couldn’t do anything until the emergency service came about two hours later. The incident happened around 6.30pm-7pm. We were trapped under the container till about 9pm-9.30pm when we were removed from under the container.
Will you say you have got over the trauma?
I won’t say yes, neither will I say no. I just know that I still experience flashes. I also try not to remember the incidents to avoid the shock. It was a troubling experience.
Did you sustain any injury?
I had just a mild cut on my hand. An X-ray was carried out on the four of us and funnily enough, there was no fracture or dislocation whatsoever.
What is your name and how do you feel?
My name is Motunrayo Ajetunmobi and I am getting better.
Have you fully recovered from the incident?
No. I am still in shock and a bit too weak but I am so grateful to God. Only God could have done this. I am grateful. There is no internal bleeding, just that I am weak and can’t walk well. I am still a bit overwhelmed by the events and the calls from people. So, I am still very weak. Austin can speak for us and narrate what happened. I am just grateful that I could survive such a terrible incident.
Doctor was amazed I had no fracture, ordered second X-ray – Cab driver
What is your name and what do you do?
My name is Tunde Adio. I work with the Lagos State Government under Alimosho Local Government Education Authority.
What was your relationship with other passengers in the vehicle?
I also work as a cab driver with one of the ride-hailing services. On that eventful day, the other three people in the car ordered the ride on Bolt. I picked them up from LASPOTECH gate, Ikorodu and we were headed to Surulere before we got involved in that accident at Ojuelegba.
When did the incident happen?
The incident happened on Sunday evening. I was just driving and all of a sudden, I saw a truck with a container that was landing on the car that I was driving. The incident happened around Ojuelegba going towards Stadium Road. There was no pothole or anything, it came as a surprise to all of us.
How did you get out of the vehicle?
From the picture I saw it was a long container. While we were trapped under the vehicle, we just kept hearing people’s voices calling us to know if we were alive. We were shouting back that we were alive and trapped there but they couldn’t do anything other than stay around till state emergency responders came and the container was removed.
For how long were you trapped in the crumbled cab before the container was removed?
I can’t say precisely but I know we were under the container for not less than two hours.
Were you still conscious by the time the container was removed?
Yes. I was weak but not totally unconscious of the events that happened around me. I was the first person that was helped out of the vehicle. When they removed the container, I raised up my hand faintly to show that I was still alive.
When were you discharged from the hospital?
I was discharged the next day, which was on Monday. I was discharged after they carried out an X-ray on me and found out that nothing was damaged in my body. The doctor had to run another X-ray on me to be sure that I was fine because he couldn’t believe that one could survive that kind of an accident without injuries.
Are you having any pain?
I am much better now but I still feel some pain around my neck. I am just experiencing some pains on my shoulders and neck but since the X-rays have certified me okay, I believe that the pain would subside over time. I am getting better generally. I am still on a neck guard though to ease the pain.
Are there talks about fixing the vehicle for you?
I am not sure the vehicle can still be fixed. But for now, I am not having any of such conversations. The police are yet to see anyone show up as the owner of the truck. This is according to the feedback I got from my brother. I haven’t been strong enough to start the running around to the police station, but my brother has been giving me feedback. The case was reported at the Ojuelegba police station.
The car is my means of livelihood, I have a lot of people dependent on me. I have two children, aged parents and even siblings to cater for.
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